MONTREAL - There's a lot riding on NEOSSat and Sapphire, two Canadian satellites scheduled to be launched from India on Monday.

NEOSSat (Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite) could perhaps have proven quite useful had it been in place before a destructive meteor recently exploded over Russia.

David Cooper, the CEO of Microsat Systems Canada, says NEOSSat will be on the lookout for "Aten" asteroids which, every once and a while, will cross Earth's path.

Atens are a group of near-Earth asteroids which orbit the sun elliptically and periodically cross Earth's orbital plane.

The Microsat executive said he suspects the space rock that streaked over Russia, causing numerous injuries, must have been an "Aten" asteroid.

"We're pretty lucky that it just grazed off the Earth's atmosphere and heated up and exploded, rather than having a trajectory which would have taken it right into the Earth," Cooper said from his office in Mississauga, Ont.

"If it had come down in the middle of New York City it would have made a lot more noise than it did."

He said that NEOSSat is designed to specifically look for Aten asteroids that can't be seen from the ground because of the scattering of the sun's light in the atmosphere.

"Once we detect and track them, we can project their orbit and then forecast ahead — sometimes years or decades (in advance) — where and when they will cross Earth's orbit. . .

"It will give us a lot more insight into the potential for these asteroids."

The hope is that if we understand an asteroid's path, we could take measures to protect ourselves.

In a recent interview, Alan Hildebrand of the University of Calgary said studies are already being done to see how a threatening asteroid can be deflected.

The planetary scientist said one option would involve exploding a device near an asteroid while another would use a spacecraft to pull it away.

The $15 million suitcase-sized satellite, which will circle about 800 kilometres above the Earth every 100 minutes, is the first space telescope dedicated to looking for potentially hazardous asteroids.

NEOSSat, which was built by Microsat Systems Canada, was jointly funded by the Canadian Space Agency and DRDC (Defence Research and Development Canada).

Sapphire, Canada's first military satellite, will join NEOSSat on the launch pad Monday.

A total of seven satellites will be launched aboard India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, at 7:25 a.m. ET. The launch had been postponed because work on an Indo-French satellite, the rocket's primary payload, was delayed.

National Defence describes Sapphire as the largest part of the Canadian surveillance system, intended to increase "space situational awareness."

The metre-long satellite, which weighs about 150 kilograms, will be used to support Canadian and international military operations and well as bilateral commitments such as NORAD.

Sapphire will contribute to the United States Space Surveillance Network, which currently tracks more than 22,000 pieces of space debris larger than 10 centimetres.

The data that's collected will be used to warn satellite operators of potential collisions as a result of space debris. A cliche among space professionals is that space has become "congested, contested and competitive."

Sapphire will be placed in a polar synchronous orbit, some 800 kilometres above the Earth. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) was awarded a $65 million dollar federal contract to build the satellite.

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  • In this frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera, on a highway from Kostanai, Kazakhstan, to Chelyabinsk region, Russia, provided by Nasha Gazeta newspaper, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 a meteorite contrail is seen. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Nasha gazeta, www.ng.kz)

  • In this photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru a meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Chelyabinsk.ru)

  • In this photo provided by E1.ru a meteorite contrail is seen over a vilage of Bolshoe Sidelnikovo 50 km of Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/ Nadezhda Luchinina, E1.ru)

  • In this frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera a meteor streaks through the sky over Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tons (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured some 500 people and frightened countless more. (AP Photo/AP Video)

  • A man in Moscow looks at a computer screen displaying a picture reportedly taken in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk on February 15, 2013, showing the trail of a meteorite above a residential area of the city. A heavy meteor shower rained down today on central Russia, sowing panic as the hurtling space debris smashed windows and injured dozens of stunned locals, officials said. AFP PHOTO / YURI KADOBNOV

  • In this photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru a woman cleans away glass debris from a window after a meteorite explosion over Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor exploded in the sky above Russia on Friday, causing a shockwave that blew out windows injuring hundreds of people and sending fragments falling to the ground in the Ural Mountains. The Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement hours after the Friday morning fall that the meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered about 30-50 kilometers (18-32 miles) above ground. The fall caused explosions that broke glass over a wide area. (AP Photo/ Yevgenia Yemelyanova, Chelyabinsk.ru)

  • A local resident repairs a window broken by a shock wave from a meteor explosion in Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tons (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured some 500 people and frightened countless more. (AP Photo/Boris Kaulin)

  • Cars pass by a zinc factory building with it's roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. There was no immediate clarification of whether the collapse was caused by meteorites or by a shock wave from one of the explosions. A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tons (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured some 500 people and frightened countless more. (AP Photo/Boris Kaulin)

  • In this photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru municipal workers repair damaged electric power circuit outside a zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed after a meteorite exploded over in Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/ Oleg Kargapolov, Chelyabinsk.ru)

  • In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Sergey Hametov)

  • In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Sergey Hametov)

  • FILE - In this 1953 file photo, trees lie strewn across the Siberian countryside 45 years after a meteorite struck the Earth near Tunguska, Russia. The 1908 explosion is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons; it leveled some 80 million trees for miles near the impact site. The meteor that streaked across the Russian sky Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, is estimated to be about 10 tons. It exploded with the power of an atomic bomb over the Ural Mountains, about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) west of Tunguska. (AP Photo, File)